Using Zwift Academy Road Workouts Effectively

Using Zwift Academy Road Workouts Effectively

Zwift Academy Road is in full swing, and this week riders attack Workout #2. I’ve seen a lot of questions about the ZA Workouts, and thought a post focusing on proper workout execution and overall Zwift Academy workout structure may be helpful. Let’s dive in!

A Note for ERG Newbies

If you’re new to structured workouts and ERG mode, I would recommend learning how it works before diving into your first workout. Read “All About ERG Mode In Zwift” for details, and consider at least starting one of the workouts in your workouts folder just to get the feel for how ERG mode works before attempting your first Zwift Academy workout.

Workouts 1 & 2

If you’re signed up for ZA Road, you’ve probably already done workout #1, and possibly #2 as well. What were your impressions of the two workouts?

For me, #2 was much tougher than #1. Don’t hear me wrong, #1 was no picnic. But I never thought, “I may not be able to do this” or “I’m near my limit”. My peak heart rate during the tough intervals stayed basically the same (around 170) for the three intervals, meaning I wasn’t fatiguing much as the workout went on.

I felt good enough, in fact, to jump into a race after the workout (albeit with a small field of riders) and ended up winning with a long final breakaway (see it on ZwiftPower).

Contrast that with workout #2, where the first couple intervals didn’t feel too bad… but the third one got my attention. And I had another set of three left to do! My peak heart rate bumped up each and every interval, from 165 to 167 to 172 to 174 to 175 to 177. Ouch!

If you’d like to watch me suffer through workout #2, here’s a silent video (I’ve spared you the joy of listening to a loud fan and heavy breathing):

How Does the ZA Program Work?

To graduate from ZA Road 2021, riders must complete a total of 10 rides:

  • 1 Baseline Ride event
  • All 6 Zwift Academy workouts (group workouts or individual, your choice)
  • 2 Zwift Academy recovery ride events
  • 1 Finish Line Ride event

That seems straightforward enough. But many Zwifters have written in to ask how best to execute the Zwift Academy “program”. For example, here’s one question I recently received:

Can someone explain how the “block 1” with three workouts works? I mean three rides in four weeks is not going to make me better. Am I supposed to do same three workouts and recovery each week for four weeks? Or just randomly do them? Or workout one only say three times in first week? Am I missing something in the app which will advise which one next to do and just need to pick a time?

Those are valid questions, because ZA isn’t structured like a typical complete training program. (A typical training program would have you doing ~3 challenging workouts per week, with 3-4 easy days in between for recovery. Do this for 3-4 weeks, take a rest week, then do the next block.)

Here’s the thing: Zwift Academy is not a complete training plan. You’ll notice in Zwift’s own messaging that they’ve moved away from calling it such. I asked ZwiftHQ to comment on this – to answer the Zwifter’s question above, essentially. Here’s what they said:

Zwift Academy is an approachable training program, built for the entire Zwift community that encompasses classic elements of training. The prescribed format from Zwift Academy coaches is to do one workout each week. The format and workout load makes Zwift Academy a program that all can engage and complete.

So there you have it. The prescribed format, as designed by the well-qualified Zwift Academy Road coaches, is to do one workout per week. That means workout #1 for week 1, workout #2 for week 2, etc. So your overall ZA activity list would look like this:

  • Start with Baseline Ride
  • Week 1: Workout 1
  • Week 2: Workout 2
  • Week 3: Workout 3 and Recovery Group Ride
  • Week 4: Workout 4
  • Week 5: Workout 5
  • Week 6: Workout 6 and Recovery Group Ride
  • End with Finish Line Ride

If you’re new to structured training, following the “one workout per week” plan is a great way to dip your toe in the water and get a little ERG in your life. That’s why Zwift’s coaches structured ZA in this way, in fact: to make it accessible for newer riders. Imagine if ZA was a typical training plan, but you were a new rider, or perhaps had a complicated schedule. It would make completing the program very difficult!

Zwift Academy is a multi-faceted thing. It’s a pro contract competition, but also a training program of sorts. It’s a massive community event that can also be done (mostly) on your own. It’s trying to be many things to many people, and that makes it a bit confusing at times. What is clear to me after speaking with ZwiftHQ, though, is that one of Zwift’s key goals with ZA is to familiarize newer riders with training systems and educate/introduce them to structured training.

With that said, for more experienced riders who have already done some structured VO2 and threshold training, doing one workout per week won’t go far toward making you a better rider (as the Zwifter above astutely observed). And that leads us to our next topic.

Adapting the ZA Workouts To Your Needs

Many Zwifters are more experienced riders like myself who 1) aren’t in the middle of a custom structured training plan, 2) want to participate in ZA but also 3) want to train effectively, seeing results for our efforts.

How should such a rider approach Zwift Academy Road? Here are three ideas:

  • Double (or Triple) Up the Workouts: if you’re the type of rider who doesn’t mind doing the same workout a few times, then do each week’s prescribed workout more than once. Do the workout, have a rest day, then do the same workout again, followed by a rest day… etc.
  • Workouts + Races: this is for the rider who, like myself, gets a lot of their training from Zwift racing. Try making your hard days a mixture of workouts and races. Maybe that means workout, rest day, race, rest day, then race again.
  • Mix and Match: this is like the first idea, but a bit more interesting. Since all the workouts are available as “on-demand” activities in your workouts folder, you could do the week’s prescribed workout, have a rest day, then do a different week’s workout, rest, and do another week’s workout. I would recommend staying within the proper block so you’re doing VO2 workouts for the first three weeks, and threshold work for the last 3 weeks. So a week in the first block might look like this: Workout #2 as a group workout, rest day, Workout #1 (on demand), rest day, Workout #3 (on demand), rest day.

You get the idea. If one workout per week isn’t enough to boost your fitness, then increase your training stimulus in a way that keeps you interested and pushes your limits. Of course, always leave room for recovery – because that’s where we get stronger.

Questions or Comments?

Share below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Allan Georgiou-Park
Allan Georgiou-Park
8 days ago

Cracking article. Just what a lot of people will benefit from. I had a similar experience with the two workouts. The first was difficult, but manageable and I was able to relatively comfortably put the bias up 5% for the last set. I may do it again with the whole workout up 5%. Again, I found the second workout enjoyable and put the bias up for the last set but don’t think I could do so for the whole workout. Now I’ve done two, I think I will likely set up a plan similar to one you suggest. The group… Read more »

Peter Higgins
Peter Higgins
8 days ago

It might be helpful to do a post on how to adapt a workout while you are doing it. If you find it is too easy, you can up the bias, or during a recovery period, skip forward to the next segment. If you find it is a bit more than you bargained for, decrease the bias (with screen shots) and / or pause during one of the recovery periods to give you a chance to catch your breath/lower your heart rate, then press play when you are ready to go again.

Josh Kincaid
Josh Kincaid
7 days ago
Reply to  Peter Higgins

I would NOT recommend skipping any segment. I skipped the 10 minute warm up because I did my own 10 minute warm up prior to activating the workout, and it did not give me credit for the workout on ZA, and I had to complete it a second time.

Bill Parquet
Bill Parquet
7 days ago
Reply to  Josh Kincaid

One of the workouts didn’t show up until I re-started the Zwift application. Hopefully that works for you.

Don 72 Silas
Don 72 Silas
7 days ago

Excellent explanation! I’m doing each workout 3 times. Thanks for reminding me to take a rest day after each big workday.

Garth
Garth
5 days ago
Reply to  Don 72 Silas

FWIW, I think the idea with interval sessions is to take a rest/recovery day *before* doing the intervals.

Lee Oien
Lee Oien
7 days ago

Do the recovery group rides only become available starting in week 4? I’m doing one workout, rest day, workout, etc. I’d like to get the recovery rides sooner- and multiple of them if I could.

Andrew
Andrew
4 days ago
Reply to  Lee Oien

The group recovery ride 1 becomes available from tomorrow (Monday 13th) and then I think Recovery Ride 2 is from 27th

Neil
Neil
7 days ago

Hi, I did workout#1 but it hasn’t registered on my academy profile…Will there be a chance to do it again and if so how as I can’t see it I my folder

Andrew
Andrew
4 days ago
Reply to  Neil

You can do it as often as you like either on your own from Workouts, or by joining a group workout Event

david
david
7 days ago

I think this is a good explanation, it also highlights to me that its kind of pointless. It doesnt really know what it is trying to do. Its an introduction to training programs but isnt marketed as such. It’s marketed like crazy but without a clear aim. At the minute it seems to be like a few big hyped group workouts, which is kind of fun in its own right but has no real purpose. Zwift never seems to really get the workout angle quite right for me. Having said all this, maybe it just provides entertainment which in itself… Read more »

Alex
Alex
7 days ago
Reply to  david

All Zwift workouts are entertainment focused. That’s by design to keep people engaged and especially true for big stuff like Zwift Academy.

If you are looking for workouts to just hammer away, there are platforms like TrainerRoad or you can create your own Zwift workouts (which I do). Personally I wish it was different and they had for example an Ironman plan with workouts that keep you in Z1/Z2 for 2-4 hours but that’s just not how Zwift operates. There’s always stuff sprinkled in to make sure you can’t just focus on Netflix for the full duration of the workout.

david
david
7 days ago
Reply to  Alex

Agree Alex, I do much the same thing

Nate
Nate
1 day ago
Reply to  Alex

Yep first thing I did was design a bunch of Zone 1 & 2 workouts so I wouldn’t overdo it!

Fabio Bertoldi
Fabio Bertoldi
6 days ago

I’m trying to do ZA workouts without ERG (I have a Tacx Neo, so it’s my decision) and, honestly speaking, I find things much more interesting and challenging (and it seems to me that WO are less hard). I finished WO #1 and #2 (lightening all the stars, I’m not taking it easy) and also for me #2 was harded than #1. I’m planning to rotate the workouts (this week #1 & #2; next week #2 and #3; next one #3 and #1) with a 3-4 h outside ride during the week end.

Temps 09
Temps 09
4 days ago

Finished all six required workouts. Made some errors with first few workouts with using an higher than current FTP from a race back in late spring. Made through the early workouts but harder than intended. Make sure you have an current FTP as it critial for setting workloads wattage in the interval sets between the recoveries blocks. First few workouts maybe you can get away with slightly higher than current FTP for shorter harder intense efforts. Last few workouts you will want it to be current as the last three workouts are sustanied FTP efforts. If FTP you are using… Read more »

James
James
2 days ago
Reply to  Temps 09

Isn’t that the aim of the baseline ride? The epic KOM segment itself should give you a decent 20 min test

Robert Shennan
Robert Shennan
13 hours ago

I missed workout #2, will there be another chance to get it done?

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